Patent lawsuit to continue against U, Myriad Genetics

By By Josh Bennett and By Josh Bennett

By Josh Bennett

After more than a month’s wait, the U and research partner Myriad Genetics learned Monday they will face a lawsuit against patents on human genes.

New York Federal Judge Robert Sweet denied the U and Myriad’s request for dismissal of the charges brought against them for patents on two human genes. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Association of Molecular Pathology initially sued the U and Myriad for seven patents concerning two genes, which U researchers discovered in 1994 and used to develop screening tests for breast and ovarian cancer.

Sweet heard arguments from ACLU and AMP on Sept. 30, which said the gene patents were unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth amendments because “they cover products of nature, laws of nature and/or natural phenomena, and abstract ideas or basic human knowledge or thought,” which are not patentable, according to court documents.

Sweet said the prosecution has a legitimate case to move forward with a trial.

“The widespread use of gene sequence information as the foundation for biomedical research means that resolution of these issues will have far-reaching implications, not only for gene-based health care and the health of millions of women facing the specter of breast cancer, but also for the future course of biomedical research,” Sweet wrote in his decision.

ACLU and AMP issued their lawsuit in May, but it has been delayed several times.

According to the journal Science, about 20 percent of human genes are patented, which, critics argue, hinders research by creating legal barriers. The U and Myriad, however, contend there is no proof that patents on the genes are harmful.

The various parties will meet in court Dec. 11. The cost of losing the lawsuit, both financially and scientifically, is not yet known by the U and Myriad.

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